By MURPHY FAIR
Those of us who follow high school football in Tennessee have known for a long time that we have some pretty awesome coaches in our ranks. Teams like Maryville and Alcoa don't get mentioned on the national level without good reason.
These two schools have more than two dozen state football championships to their credit. That number is expected to grow even more over the next few years, especially with people like George Quarles and Gary Rankin in charge of their football programs.
But as much as high school football fans in Tennessee know about these two individuals and their accomplishments on the gridiron, their names are beginning to become synonymous with excellence at the high school level across the country. That's due in part to a recent article by a MaxPreps writer about great high school coaches in America over the last decade.
Kevin Askeland's piece on the web last week listed Quarles as the nation's winningest high school football coach over the last 10 years. During that time, the Maryville mentor has won 143 games, including six state championships. The article goes on to list nine other coaches who round out the Top 10 list with wins totaling between 128 and 126 games over the same period.
But the name of Alcoa's Gary Rankin was conspicuously missing from that list. How could a guy who has won six state titles over the same time period (one at Riverdale in 2004 and five at Alcoa from 2006-2010) not be on this list of America's greatest coaches?
It didn't take long for me to discover the error on Askeland's part. He apparently was unaware of Rankin's tenure at Murfreesboro Riverdale before taking over the Tornado program in 2006. It was a crucial mistake.
When I totaled Rankin's 10-year record dating back to 2003, I discovered that he should have been listed at number two on the national list. Yes, Rankin ranks second with 130 wins over the same time period.
What an honor for the Volunteer State to have the nation's top two high school football coaches over the last 10 years. Both coaches were humbled to find their names at the top of this very special list.
Quarles, who has been the head coach at Maryville for the past 14 years, didn't originally choose coaching as a profession. Work as a graduate assistant at Furman changed his mind. Being around the game and helping mold young men had a greater pull than the business world.
Rankin admits his desire to go into teaching and coaching dates back to his days as a player at Smith County High School. His competitive nature and influences from high school coaches Scotty Yeaman, Bob Langford and Cordell McDonald are responsible for him being where he is today.
Murphy Fair has published TENNESSEE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL for more than 25 years. His statewide syndicated radio show (Murphy's Matchups) can be heard locally on Friday evenings before kickoff on WBRY.